Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico in the United States

Constitutional Status of Puerto Rico

According to the Encyclopedia of the American ConstitutionPuerto Rico is the largest of the United States insular areas, both as to land area and population. It is also one of the oldest in terms of being part of the United States, having been acquired along with Guam in 1899 as a result of the Spanish American War. See the Foraker Act of 1900.

The Encyclopedia says that no “clear definition exists of how and to what extent the Commonwealth of puerto rico fits within the federal constitutional system.” See the Puerto Rican Federal Relations Act, enacted by Congress in 1950 “in the nature of a compact” between Congress and Puerto Rico.

Legal Materials

For information on legal research in Puerto Rico, see The Challenge of Puerto Rico Legal Research: What’s Available & How Do You Find It by Maria M. Otero. For links to online resources, see The Guide to Online Law: Puerto Rico by the Law Library of Congress.

Legislation: Puerto Rico session laws are published in The Laws of Puerto Rico, which is posted free in English from 1997 to the present by the Office of Legislative Services. Selected session laws in English back to 1988 are searchable on Lexis (PR;PRALS) and Westlaw (PR-LEGIS for relatively recent laws; PR-LEGIS-OLD for older laws). Session laws are available in Spanish on Westlaw (PRS-LEGIS for relatively recent laws; PRS-LEGIS-OLD for older laws back to 1990) and, if you subscribe, back to 1980 in the Digital Session Laws Collection on HeinOnline.

Puerto Rico laws are codified in the Laws of Puerto Rico Annotated, which is available on Lexis (PR;CODE), Westlaw (PR-ST-ANN) and MicroJuris. Lexis posts a free, unannotated edition in English and Spanish. Lexis has historical editions of the annotated code back to 1988 (e.g., PR;PR1988).

Judicial Opinions: Supreme Court cases are published in Spanish in Decisiones de Puerto Rico (the D.P.R. or P.R. Dec.) from 1899 to about five or six years back. They were also published in English in the Puerto Rico Reports (the P.R.R.) from 1899 to 1972 or 1978. After that, they are published in the Official Translations of the Opinions of the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico which, like the Decisiones, is about five or six years behind.

La Rama Judicial de Puerto Rico posts Supreme Court decisions free in Spanish from 1988.

Lexis has Supreme Court a database with Supreme Court from 1899 to present and Court of Appeals from 1996 to present (PR;PRCTS). MicroJuris also has these decisions, as well as “Opinions of the Secretary of Justice.”

Westlaw has Supreme Court cases in English, along with decisions of the U.S. Federal courts for Puerto Rico (PR-CS-ALL).

The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation has a section listing Puerto Rican case reporters.

Regulations: If you subscribe, MicroJuris offers regulations from dozens of Puerto Rican government agencies. The Puerto Rico administrative code, Reglamentos Del Estado Libre Asociado De Puerto Rico, is available in Spanish on Lexis (PR;PRADMN).

Insurance: The Puerto Rico Insurance statutes, regulations and Bulletins are available in English on Westlaw in the PRIN-COMBINED file.

Libraries: For questions and copies of Puerto Rico legal materials not otherwise available, call one of the libraries at the University of Puerto Rico (787-999-9688, 787-999-9690 or 787-999-9714).

For more legal resources, see the Puerto Rico Resources page by the Georgetown Law Library.

Business: A law firm called McConnel Valdés writes a Guide for Doing Business in Puerto Rico.

Finding the law: Puerto Rico in the U.S. Code

A collection of general and permanent laws relating to puerto rico, passed by the United States Congress, are organized by subject matter arrangements in the United States Code (U.S.C.; this label examines puerto rico topics), to make them easy to use (usually, organized by legal areas into Titles, Chapters and Sections). The platform provides introductory material to the U.S. Code, and cross references to case law. View the U.S. Code’s table of contents here.

Puerto Rico

In Legislation

Puerto Rico in the U.S. Code: Title 48, Chapter 4

The current, permanent, in-force federal laws regulating puerto rico are compiled in the United States Code under Title 48, Chapter 4. It constitutes “prima facie” evidence of statutes relating to Territories (including puerto rico) of the United States. The reader can further narrow his/her legal research of the general topic (in this case, Puerto Rico of the US Code, including puerto rico) by chapter and subchapter.


See Also

United States District Courts

Further Reading

Puerto Rico: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about Puerto Rico. This part provides references, in relation to Puerto Rico, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Puerto Rico by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Puerto Rico and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Puerto Rico or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Puerto Rico and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Puerto Rico. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Puerto Rico should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Puerto Rico when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

*This resource guide is updated frequently. However, if you notice something is wrong or not working, or any resources that should be added, please notify us in any of the "Leave a Comment" area.

Leave a Comment